I was smitten by the Jeep Patriot the first time I got behind the wheel of the during the 2008 Motor Trend Sport/Utility testing of the year. It was the underdog of underdogs. Its CVT was it's biggest downfall. It left Jeep expectations unmet and had debuted with the Jeep Compass as its fraternal twin. But there was something about the boxy exterior that was a little more forgiving and a lot more loveable than its counterpart. After driving the 2013 Jeep Compass Latitude 4x4 and 2013 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4x4 back to back, my love-hate love affair for the Patriot remains the same.

In 2011, the Patriot underwent a mild fresh with new front and rear fascias while retaining its traditional squared off body lines. The interior also received a few new touches -- premium cloth bucket seats, soft-touch interior trim, and new steering wheel. The Patriot remained nearly unchanged for 2012 with a few new color options, a limited-edition Altitude trim level, and recalibrated CVT2 responsiveness. And for 2013, the only change is two new colors.

The Jeep Patriot and the Jeep Compass are nearly identical on paper. The sheetmetal is the only thing that sets these two apart. They share the same platform, engines, transmissions, and have nearly identical interiors - the Compass having less than 4 cubic inches more cargo space than the Patriot. Both back-to-back test vehicles featured the same Latitude trim level -- minus the premium sound group on the Patriot. The Patriot was equipped with the Security and Cargo Convenience group ($695), Uconnect 430 CD/DVD/MP3/HDD ($695), and Uconnect Voice Command with Bluetooth ($475).

Our tester was equipped with 2.4-liter, I-4 engine with 172 hp with 165 lb-ft of torque and paired with the CVT2. The Patriot doesn't have a traditional 4x4 system as does the Wrangler would. Because of the CVT, which features Freedom Drive I, it's an all-wheel drive system with a lockable center coupling. Zero to 60 comes in 10.1 seconds. It was like taking a Sunday drive through the mountains and getting stuck behind a logging rig the whole ride. It sounds painful, the throttle response significantly lags, and all you wish for is to hear the shifting of gears. Our figure-eight performance was underwhelming with lots of body-roll. It's an acquired driving experience for the non-enthusiast. However, it will get you where you want to go.

The Patriot's styling reminds me of the 1990s Jeep Cherokee. Though they are close in size, the Patriot lacks all the fun components that made the Jeep Cherokee so popular with off-road enthusiasts. The Patriot's modern interior and traditional exterior give this little 'ute a really SUV appeal, but it feels like a top heavy, underpowered compact sedan. I really want to love the Patriot for what it isn't -- instead I just like it for being square.


2013 Jeep Patriot Latitude
BASE PRICE $23,805
PRICE AS TESTED $25,195
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 2.4L/172-hp/165-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION Cont. variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3358 lb (57/43%)
WHEELBASE 103.7 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 173.8 x 69.2 x 65.5 in
0-60 MPH 10.1 sec
QUARTER MILE 17.6 sec @ 81.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 130 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.74 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 29.8 sec @ 0.53 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 21/26 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 160/130 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 0.84 lb/mile